I pray you are enjoying the richness of summer! Everything is growing–plants, vegetables, fruits, flowers and of course weeds. We are so grateful for the young people that come to help pull weeds! Their quick movement has me in a sense of wonder–when did I stop moving like that? The change snuck up on me! Now, it is fun to have all of that young energy with us!
I am writing on the deck of our place “up north”–pondering all that has been going on. Earlier I was out in the sun on our paddle boat with my sister-in-law. Now, a storm is rolling in with some authoritative sounding thunder and the occasional flash of lightning. Sandhill cranes are communicating and their prehistoric sounding call is echoing across the lake. The temperature is dropping quickly. This is my idea of a good time–watching nature with dynamic change in the air–while near a safe shelter! And, I am realizing this may be a metaphor for how I like to live! Jumping into experiences and enjoying the day to day, yet ever near a safety net of support!
Dynamic change is in the air at Hope & A Future too! We are busy planning with the people that will help us build our exciting expansion! If you have been following us, you may know we will be adding two kinds of housing–independent housing for people 55 years of age and older, as well as housing for families with young children. The housing will connect to a new intergenerational community space and our current Adult Family Home. The expansion has been looked forward to for a very long time. Our pioneering model is designed to bring the generations together in helpful and creative ways. Young and old will help each other live better lives–together. We believe in the power of the people next door and generations of purpose! We have a lot of work to do, but our goal is to break ground later next year.
On another front, I am preparing to present with a group of architects at the Environments For Aging Conference in TN later this month. These thoughtful folks are looking at issues of loneliness in traditional settings and society in general. They see the value of bringing the generations together. It has been fun to work with them. We have discussed the importance of looking at community needs and planning for the kind of built spaces needed for meeting those needs–but also about the importance of working in cooperation with the people that will be part of the life lived in those buildings! Human service workers and architects really can help make a more inclusive and equitable world–together!
I made a new friend at Hope & A Future. She is interested in helping us as we move forward with our expansion. I am not using her name as I did not ask her if it was okay. But this new friend has only lived in the US for a short time. She was surprised to learn that we do not do more intergenerational programs already in the US. She is a physician and told me that in the countries she has done non-profit work in–that intergenerational work is considered to be so important that it must be part of all non-profit programs–or it is not considered an adequate approach for helping people and will not be funded. She and her daughter were also surprised to learn that in the US, people with lower income levels live in separate sections of a town or city. They are happy to know we are welcoming diversity and bringing mixed income levels and the generations together in our expansion. They agree with our thinking that together we can help each other live better lives.
In the last month, there have been many discussions about our family of friends. A staff person told me how she had been thinking about how hard we work together to find solutions to problems our residents and staff members are experiencing. She said, “that is what families do. They do not give up. They keep working together.” Others have talked about how the developed world has become so mobile that we often refer to the world as having become smaller. It is rare for people to live near their extended family and in the US, engaged neighbors are also rare. I have met a number of people new to living in the US describe their surprise at how lonely they feel here as compared to other countries they have lived in. We talked about the need for what we call, a Family of Friends. Knowing we have a mobile society and largely unengaged neighbors in the United States and that even the definition of family, which is considered the building block of society, is now more of a fluid concept–people still need a safety net of support. Without it, they experience loneliness–which triggers hormonal responses that are hard on mental and physical health. The solution to the discomfort often leads to addiction issues and increases gang membership. At Hope & A Future we are working to develop an extended family of friends model for our intergenerational neighborhood. This is real in our Adult Family Home and we will use this concept in our expansion.
This week my family had a friend we had not seen for a long time surprise us with a visit at Hope & A Future. She looked at the residents, staff, dog and baby sitting poolside as volunteer Bob led the last exercises in the Tai Chi class. She said, “This is magical!” I agreed! Like many, my husband Rick and I and our children moved around a lot for a time. In each state we lived in, we became surrounded by a network of friends that functioned like an extended family. The person visiting was in that category. We had not seen each other since the mid 1990s! Yet it was like we had never been apart when we got back together. She reminded us of stories we had not thought about for years. We all quickly outlined what we had been doing and found ourselves making plans for things we will do together in the near future! It was as if we had never been apart–yet we had not seen each other for more than a couple of decades! After she left, I realized that I have this kind of relationship with my biological family and with people from different states and from different times in my life. Our relationships were important then and they still are–even though we seldom see each other. It is my very real experience that neither time, death nor distance ends a relationship. Relationships live on in our hearts and inform our lives! So if you are lonely or bored, go outside and meet someone, or call someone over! Almost none of us lives very far from another person. But half of the people in our country are experiencing painful loneliness! I guarantee that if you offer a weed-pulling neighbor a cup of ice water–you will have a less lonely day and that is good for your health!
I pray you will be blessed as you enjoy your neighbors!